Review |

‘Fauda’ Season 4 Captures the Israeli Zeitgeist

In its fourth season, the hit Israeli show has become one of the most important channels to understand the Israeli occupation

Itay Ziv
Itay Ziv
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A scene from the fourth season of 'Fauda.' Where else is the Big Brother state that Israel operates in the territories portrayed?
A scene from the fourth season of 'Fauda.' Where else is the Big Brother state that Israel operates in the territories portrayed?Credit: Ilya Spinopolis
Itay Ziv
Itay Ziv

The chase in the opening episode of season four of “Fauda,” in which Israeli undercover agents hunt down wanted Palestinians in the West Bank town of Jenin, is another of the many action scenes that the show is so skilled at creating.

Polished, tense, nail-biting. Another day at the office. But if for a moment we switch our lens from escapism to critical viewing, we may see something surprising about the show: how an entertainment product like “Fauda” has become one of the most important and few channels through which we can understand the enormous resources poured into the occupation.

The undercover unit, which never seems to tire just how is it that they don’t get new combatants in place of those killed) is backed up by a support team with a high-tech war room and cameras on every street corner, vast manpower resources and analysis and deciphering of signals of every conceivable kind.

The question arises: Where else in the Israeli media can we view this crazed mechanism? Where else is the Big Brother state that Israel operates in the territories portrayed? While “Fauda” is the subject of admiration – that in itself is a contentious issue – at least it shows the enormous resources that are poured into maintaining the occupation, the spectacular waste, the subjugation of the best brains and institutions to chase after Arabs. The news broadcasts certainly don’t show this to us.

But like most Israelis, the creators of “Fauda” have also had enough of the territories. Who has the strength for three and a half million people living under military dictatorship. Enough already, we’re tired of it. The mix between this fatigue and the necessity for “Fauda” to reinvent itself every season, while expanding to new international audiences (the show is broadcast on Netflix as well as Israeli TV), has led to a shift in location. Most of the action in season 4 unfolds in Brussel’s “Moslem” quarter, Molenbeek – where terrorism is much sexier.

With all its limitations and blind spots, “Fauda” has for years awakened interest in the Palestinians and made interaction with Palestinian women an object of fantasy (remember the affair between Doron and Shirin, the Palestinian doctor, in the first season).

It has made the Arabic language attractive, has even made terrorists sexy (the Hamas arch-terrorist known as “The Panther” in season 1). And it has made the Israeli public familiar with so many outstanding Palestinian actors. Finally, it has, to a certain extent, brought the territories back into public awareness – but now it seems to be dumping the territories altogether. Jenin remains a “hornet’s nest” from where all troubles begin, but from there they are dispatched to all four corners of the earth.

Lior Raz, left, and Lucy Ayoub in Fauda's fourth season.Credit: Ilya Spinopolis

This ploy by the scriptwriters in the fourth season of the show captures the Israeli zeitgeist, not just in the sense noted above but also because of the renewed focus on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict since the riots of May 2021. But this move takes away the show’s fantasy dimension that was inherent in gazing on a world beyond the other side of the fence. So close yet so far. Paradoxically, the ban on Israelis entering Palestinian towns together with the danger in doing so make them material for fantasy. “Fauda” has exploited this well in its previous seasons and that was part of its charm – alongside, of course, its nail-biting action scenes.

One has to admit that the internationalization of season 4, at least from a purely creative perspective, works well. The previous season, which took place in Gaza, was undeniably the weakest because the plot was so far-fetched. In the current season, at least judging by the first two episodes, the series seems to have undergone a refresher – the plot is more credible and the new characters are more rounded (especially the Palestinian-Israeli police woman played by Lucy Ayoub). The action remains pretty much the same.

But the dour face of the show’s hero, Doron (played by Lior Raz) remains exactly as it was. On the one hand, there is no show without him. Indeed, after the end of the previous season, where he was dismissed from the unit, he is back unsurprisingly in the second episode. On the other hand, it isn’t at all clear why we are supposed to like him. He is always grumbling, he is disgusting, hot-tempered, toxic and sometimes even violent; he is a terrible partner and a lousy father and, in the show’s most serious sin, he is “unprofessional,” repeatedly losing his temper in operational situations.

In this season, a terrible failure unfolds on his watch. He had only one job to do but that doesn’t stop him from blaming the whole world while being completely blind to his share in the fiasco. For this, the script writers are primarily to blame because the show identifies so totally with this point of view so fully, never introducing a critical perspective. How did Doron’s former commander Captain Ayoub (Itzik Cohen) put it? “You’re just a little kid who can’t stop feeling sorry for himself.” Exactly!

The answer is that we are supposed to like Doron and forgive him for all his faults because he is a fighter. After all, without Doron and his ilk, we would be slaughtered in our beds this very night, right?

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